Tag Archives: relationships

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center—pub date May 15, 2018

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This book starts off with a bang, specifically a plane crash. Despite Margaret’s fear of flying, her fiance coerces her into a flight in his Cessna before his certification test. An unexpected storm causes the plane to flip, trapping her inside as it explodes. The story reads like a memoir, such is the detail of her learning process about the extent of her injuries and medical procedures. The shocking revelations don’t end with her body and its new needs, as Margaret / Maggie spends more time with her family than she would have expected, or chosen. She discovers the true nature of her beloveds: suddenly absentee fiancee Chris, estranged sister Kitty, and distant mother—secrets bursting bubbles right and left. Some of those bubbles are burst by her recalcitrant physical therapist, whose already wobbly professionalism crashes at the charm of Maggie. Center brilliantly leads the reader through a labyrinth of complex emotions and clashing dynamics on two continents to a hilarious and painful climactic scene, where Maggie cannot escape a situation more awkward than she could imagine. Then the story goes a bit over the top, ala Harlequin romance style, with the love interest taking a dangerous leap literally, and gushing about his feelings for her as though the rest of the world stopped for this moment. It’s difficult to see what is happening around them as they open up to each other in a completely inappropriate place and time.

That life constantly takes Maggie by surprise is an endearing trait that makes her relateable and encourages readers to cheer her on through her physical and emotional struggles. There was a cringe-worthy scene early on where her professor tells her to “act like a man” for her interview, and she promises to do so. It’s very much her character, though, and Center maintains the integrity of all characters as they face secrets exposed and emotions unleashed. The denouement ends up being summarized, a bit of a disappointment in such a captivating tale, but leaves the reader with a sense of humanity restored as life exceeds Maggie’s expectations. This is a novel that reminds readers fiction often has much truth, in showing unspoken, understandable motives behind seemingly hurtful actions and how communication can resolve even long-held conflicts.

I was fortunate to receive an ARC from St. Martin’s Press of this beautiful story by Katherine Center.

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay—pub date April 17, 2018

This story opens in an interrogation room, with Angela prepared to tell her story to police, if they will only listen. Finally, Detective Novak allows her to share everything that she feels is relevant, beginning with her meeting H.P. in high school, where he changed her life. They became best friends who fell in love, or as Angela tells the story, soul mates. She leads Detective Novak through their complicated relationship, hampered by her lack of a healthy role model and his small town contentment, and further strained by Angela attending Oxford, where she’s befriended by Freddy, who dotes on her against her will. Detective Novak perks up at the entrance of Saskia, the missing wife, the reason for Angela’s interrogation, during H.P.’s visit to England. Misunderstandings ensue, emotions tangle, and new pathways are formed. Angela blames losing her first love on everyone else, spending her life from that point on waiting for him to do the right thing. When her mother moves in uninvited after leaving her father, she pursues an unhealthy friendship with H.P. as their houseguest and babysitter, which culminates in Saskia’s disappearance. Detective Novak pieces together the evidence through the long night of storytelling by Angela, who is either also an innocent victim or a truly unreliable narrator.

Nay leads the reader through a maze of Angela’s fears, internal struggles, unrealistic desires, and inevitable disappointments. Angela is brilliantly depicted as a minor character in her own life, for which she can then lay guilt at whoever she allowed to make the decisions for her, as she waits in vain for things to go her way without taking action herself. Failure to communicate is a key element in the derailment of Angela’s life, and Nay relays every misstep taken by those underestimating her. The ending is not as well captured as the entire novel leading up to it, subtlety left behind in the previous chapter.

I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher through a giveaway.

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt—pub date April 1, 2018

This is not the first child Rachel Shepherd has lost, but it’s the one that stayed with her the longest, becoming a stillborn baby with a name rather than a miscarriage. She is heartbroken and feeling adrift after losing this baby, her mother recently, and possibly her marriage. She longs for family, for her roots, and so begins searching for her long-lost, journalist father, following the trail to a mysterious woman from his past, an American who raises orphans in Rwanda. Her father’s history is complicated, with her birth being the catalyst for the seemingly wrong turn in his youth. Ambiguous feelings arise with each new discovery, the hurt surfacing to be dealt with and move toward healing. Rachel’s need for family dredges up old wounds in Lillian, the inscrutable, second wife of her father, who does her best to stay above the quagmire of these ancient pains. Things have changed, and everyone finds something they didn’t know they were looking for, and didn’t know they needed.

This book digs down deep into the complexities of decisions affecting relationships of spouses, parent and child, and chosen family. It also portrays the genocide of Rwanda at an individual level, delving into the politics and showing the impossibility of the situation for former friends and neighbors.

I was fortunate to receive a digital ARC through NetGalley of this wonderful novel.

The Husband’s Secret (2013 Berkley) by Liane Moriarty

While looking in the attic for something, Cecilia finds a letter from her husband to be opened upon his death. Her life becomes intertwined with the secretary of the school who lost her daughter to murder 30 years and a young mom who separated from her husband and came home to care for her mother with a broken ankle. Cecilia discovers the limits of her endurance and her loyalty to her family.

Moriarty intricately weaves stories and lives together with conscientious telling details. I love the different perspectives of all the characters, how much more complex they are then they seem. Though Cecilia is the main character, the other two women are just as relevant to the story, and even minor characters are developed enough to envision. The big secret is not held until the end from the reader, yet Moriarty continues building tension until the final revelation.

I suspect Agatha Christie fans would like Moriarty’s work. Readers who love mysteries, the complexity of small town relationships, and familial nuances will appreciate this story.

What Alice Forget (2010 PanMacMillan Australia) by Liane Moriarty

Alice wakes from a daydream of the beach to a painful head in an unfamiliar gym, with a colleague peering down at her. She fell off her bike in spin class and misplaced the last decade in her brain. Current events are not so current, and Alice learns some astonishing facts about the world and popular culture. Over the following week, she discovers some harsh truths about that decade from family, friends, and neighbors. As she slowly gains insight into her own life and troubled relations with her loved ones, the soul searching begins. When the memories hit all at once, Alice is stunned and reasserts herself as she merges her 29-year-old self with her 39-year old self.

Now this is how you open a novel! Moriarty begins the story with Alice floating in a pool, listening to a man playing Marco Polo with kids, knowing that the someone next to her with toenails painted different colors like her own is a person she loves. As the dreamlike sequence morphs into a painfully realistic nightmare of Alice’s confusion at finding herself in a gym, where she would never expect to be, the reader is pulled into the confusion and learns the truths as Alice learns them. Brilliant! Along with the facts presented to the memory-challenged Alice, secrets are unveiled, strengthening relationships and urging everyone forward toward positive opportunities.

Readers who wish to be invested deeply in the main character’s life will love this book. If you are fond of secrets, humorous references to current (and not so current) events, and gut-wrenching situations, this book is for you. Moriarty will have you laughing and crying out loud!

Seven Days of Us (2017 Berkley) by Francesca Hornak

A young doctor assisting in the Haag virus epidemic in Liberia brings home to her British nuclear family (mom, dad, sister) a week quarantine in their country home for Christmas. Secrets burst forth in the form of quarantine gatecrashers, long repressed feelings, and past indiscretions, transforming alliances and long-held opinions. Ultimately, they are closer after a life-changing event in the home.

I was thrilled to receive this book through a Read It Forward giveaway, because I otherwise might not have read this wonderful story. This is a superbly written novel, with the only niggle being the chapter headings of intimately specific locations within the house and times given to the minute, which caused me a few times to return to the front of the chapter just to re-read the heading.

I appreciate the well-roundedness of the author’s points of views in developing true-to-life characters who interacted in the gray areas of class and social mores in order to relate to each other and grow as individuals to better understand each other on a deeper level. Hornak shows the evolution of all the characters, from the seemingly selfless doctor working in a developing country, who shows contempt for her family, to her younger sister, who is forced to see her own selfishness in order to grow. She also brings us a lovely vision of a blended family, which is one secret I shan’t spoil.

Readers who love complex characters who evoke emotional responses, and storylines that reach deeper into concepts that challenge us, will likely fall in love with this novel as I did. The first person to share my review on Twitter or Facebook and tag me will get my copy! After reading, please give it away again. Thank you!

Left to Chance (2017 St. Martin’s Griffin) by Amy Sue Nathan

I was, and still am, honestly, delighted to win this giveaway from my favorite publisher St. Martin’s Press by a Tall Poppy author. If you don’t know Tall Poppies, search for their group on Facebook. It’s called Bloom.

The story was a bit slow for me at first, as the MC Teddi finds a brick wall of friends upon her return to her hometown. It picked up pace tremendously and completely sucked me in when Teddi learned that information was being kept from her about a family she had considered herself a part of still despite her disappearance. Seems everyone has a hidden agenda for this prodigal daughter come home at the request of her late friend’s daughter to photograph her father’s wedding, and this includes the late friend’s daughter.

Nathan elicits emotion from dear reader, offering evidence for empathizing with each character, all of whom are well developed, credible, and complex. The secrets are breathtaking, lovely twists to the tale. There are no absolutes in this story, refreshing especially for the complicated romances.

Readers who appreciate an intricately braided storyline and heartening relationships will likely be pleased with this novel. The first person to share this review on Facebook or Twitter and tag me will receive my copy of this book.